8Breed, a Halo clone if there ever was one, offers as many ways to annoy you as it does cool vehicles to overturn and fishtail uncontrollably downhill in. Featuring hack dialogue and a fairly generic sci-fi story, Breed seems totally oblivious to its own dorkiness; it doesn’t see any irony in casting the last human survivors you portray —and with whom you’re meant to identify— as sexless clones, and naming the game after the apparently more virile alien invaders. It even takes its alien conquest storyline seriously enough to have its hard-bitten military commander snarl, “we are the good and they are the evil.â€

Breed apparently takes place on Earth, although there are few visual landmarks to indicate as much outside of some low-poly palm trees. It’s the 27th century, which has seen the planet’s entire population and defenses fall to the Breed, indiscriminate blue and purple aliens who gibber and somersault around like the aliens in Halo and, unlike their more profitable Xbox forbears, can’t hit the side of a barn. You play one of several members of the last clone squad of GRUNTs (Genetically Revived Universal Tactical Sentient, which maybe sounds cooler in the developers’ native German) of the last surviving ship, the U.S.S. Darwin, and your mission is to single-handedly recapture Earth by systematically shooting aliens dead one at a time.

Breed has a few things going for it. The sound effects of artillery explosions, sniper shots, and rocket impacts have a nice cathartic crunchiness. Toggling between members of your squad—sniper, heavy gunner, and grunt (they don’t have names, being clones and all)—for specialized tasks is easy and, in concept at least, adds genuine tactical depth. There are also a wide assortment of dune buggies, hover tanks, plasma turrets, and aircraft to pilot and shoot from, and the game’s sloppy level design sometimes works to its advantage, making things feel more open-ended than they probably are meant to.

1But the term perseverance only applies when it’s for a good cause, and Breed’s shortcomings keep squirting all thoughts of philanthropy out of your forebrain before any kind of honest shooter groove can develop. The vehicles just don’t handle that well, and the AI of both your alien opponents and squad mates is abominable. You can hear your comrades scream with agony as they’re peppered with blue globs from aliens crouching a few feet in front of them, and you feel nothing for these suicidal, supposedly highly-trained military whiners.

Halo wisely played up the incompetence of your fellow marines, making it even more your story, your triumph. Here, your so-called allies constantly wander into your line of fire, tag you from behind as you’re charging an enemy nest, topple over cliffs, and fly around in listless circles. Any of the numerous formation commands you can issue has minimal effect on their motivation in saving the species (or at least you).

Although the visuals of the Mercury graphics engine once held up, sleek shooters like Far Cry and Painkiller outclass their meager geometry count and sparse, dull textures. Breed, by comparison, offers a preposterously huge targeting reticule that fills your screen like a gargantuan green eyeball with a tiny pinprick pupil dotting its center, and a row of formation icons for your squad that you’re just as well off ignoring.

Bugs, crashes, and confusing mission objectives keep you in a state of mounting irritation from the opening of the first level, where you’re instructed to shoot down a series of radar panels from a dropship turret, and your pilot thoughtfully takes a path that obscures your view of the targets with jutting sections of the ship’s fuselage, to a later task where a wingman you’re supposed to keep alive dies inexplicably no matter how closely you track his seemingly random pathfinding.

Multiplayer modes range from classic deathmatch to classic team deathmatch, and finding a server anywhere on the globe, dedicated or otherwise, takes much longer than finishing the 18-mission single-player campaign. This should by no means be considered an endorsement of the latter, or the former, for that matter.

System Requirements: Pentium III 750 MHz, 256 MB RAM, Win98SE

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